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The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor - And Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! Hardcover – 15 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Revised edition (15 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199926514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199926510
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 2.3 x 16 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 734,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Harford is a member of the Financial Times editorial board. His column, 'The Undercover Economist', which reveals the economic ideas behind everyday experiences, is published in the Financial Times and Slate. He is also the only economist in the world to run a problem page, 'Dear Economist'. Tim presented the BBC television series 'Trust Me, I'm an Economist' and now presents the BBC radio series 'More or Less'. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Forbes, New York magazine, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Tim won the 2006 Bastiat Prize for economic journalism and is also an award-winning speaker.

Product Description

With over one million copies sold, The Undercover Economist has been hailed worldwide as a fantastic guide to the fundamental principles of economics. An economist's version of The Way Things Work, this engaging volume is part Economics 101 and part expose of the economic principles lurking behind daily events, explaining everything from traffic jams to high coffee prices. New to this edition This revised edition, newly updated to consider the banking crisis and economic turbulence of the last four years, is essential for anyone who has wondered why the gap between rich and poor nations is so great, or why they can't seem to find a decent second-hand car, or how to outwit Starbucks. Senior columnist for the Financial Times Tim Harford brings his experience and insight as he ranges from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States to reveal how supermarkets, airlines, and coffee chains--to name just a few--are vacuuming money from our wallets. Harford punctures the myths surrounding some of today's biggest controversies, including the high cost of health-care; he reveals why certain environmental laws can put a smile on a landlord's face; and he explains why some industries can have high profits for innocent reasons, while in other industries something sinister is going on. Covering an array of economic concepts including scarce resources, market power, efficiency, price gouging, market failure, inside information, and game theory, Harford sheds light on how these forces shape our day-to-day lives, often without our knowing it. Showing us the world through the eyes of an economist, Tim Harford reveals that everyday events are intricate games of negotiations, contests of strength, and battles of wits. Written with a light touch and sly wit, The Undercover Economist turns "the dismal science" into a true delight."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A practical look at Economic Theory 24 Nov. 2012
By hospital cop 612 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A nerd at heart, I am always looking for a good laymans book on economics. This book is a bestseller for a reason. The author takes every day situations and explains economic theories based on these situations. The result: The reader is able to understand the how and why things unfold as they do. Economics is not just a bunch of complex mathematical equations. It is a study of scarcity be it money, or time, or resources. My only complaint is that the author becomes too wordy at times and interjects his personal opinion too often. Still, if you are interested, it is an easy read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great For Any Adult On Planet Earth! Single Best Economics Book Ever Written, Brings The Topic Alive Into Everyday Life! 13 Sept. 2013
By B. Dorn - Published on
Format: Hardcover
International bestseller, with over 1.5 million copies sold throughout our Earth! World-renowned economist Tim Harford (author) provides world-class, brilliant and/or incredible content in a sharp, easy-to-read, and insightful text. He is able to teach the most difficult concepts within the social science of "Economics," in a sharp, fun format of a text! Tim Harford (author) currently teaches the topic of Economics at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. An updated version, very-well written. Tim Harford (author) explains in a fun, in-depth, outstanding text what most world citizens understand and don't understand about the way the globalized economy functions.

Mind-boggling content. The most difficult elements involved withing the topic of economics, broken down in a sharp, fun text, easy to read, then comprehend nonfiction book. For example, the ideas of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) and Milton Friedman (1912-2006) are explained. Concrete, relevant examples in everyday life that are very intriguing are cited; showing the massive relevance of understanding how economics in our daily life. Outstanding for anyone searching for a clear, brilliant, luminous book on the role of economics in our 21st century - globalized society. Overall, a sharp text that explains the role of economics in our modern globalized economy.

Virtually every concept of macro-economics is explained in a fun manner. My favorite; "How much is your life worth?" (p.95). Tim Harford (author), states: "Individually, we constantly make decisions that put a value on our own environment, our own time, and even our own lives" (p.97). Discussing numerous examples: "If you decide you can't be bothered buying a smoke alarm, you have trade off a saved time and expense against an increases chance that you will die" (p.97), adding "nobody has your best interests at heart quite as much as you do yourself" (p.99).

Money well-spent. I read dozens of sources of financial news everyday! These include the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Bloomberg, New York Time, plus many other sources. This nonfiction book is like all of the greatest nonfiction books on "Economics," thousands of hours of reading all the best sources, books, professionals, and teachers INTO ONE easy-to-read text. Timeless and very relevant to anyone's existence within our globalized economy. Part expose, part Economics class, everything in the field of economics is explained from traffic on the road to the price of your latte. Updated, grasping all the content additional information from 2008-2012 (Great Recession) + past history; the content is very important for any American, westernized citizen that is participating in worldwide commerce.

Superior content to any other modern "Economics" book. The language is easy and all of the material from inside the very difficult field of economics is explained with many fun anecdotes, and stories inside each of the chapters. The text allows an inside look for anyone inside the how field of "Economics." It's many functions. Pervasive, many topics are discussed in depth: health care, third-world sweatshops, immigration, price gouging, SEC fraud, market efficiency, poverty reduction, plus many other relevant subjects. How everything in the field of economics, these difficult to understand concepts do in fact shape our daily existences on this Earth. Overall a very good nonfiction book, highly recommended reading for anyone everyone in our modern globalized society that has an interest in finance, business administration, sociology, history, investing and/or social science. Tim Harford (author), one of the world's most respected economists. His gift, commentary on how the field of how economics applies too virtually every facet of our daily lives. Highly recommended!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not what you might expect 16 Jun. 2013
By Andor Admiraal - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you think about buying this book assuming it is something like the very popular Freakonomics, full of with fun little factoids, you may be disappointed at first. While The Undercover Economist has its fair share of anecdotal illustrations and funny little chestnuts, it really is more of an Economics 101 course. It just happens to be written in a very lively way. It is clear that Harford takes his field of expertise, economics, quite seriously and that he is not out to compromise on substance over form. Rather, he seems passionate about economics and the power it holds and he must write his books in such a friendly, accessible way in order to share his truths with the greatest possible audience.

To summarize: The Undercover Economist explains the basic principles of incentives and the often quoted but not always correctly understood 'invisible hand' of the free market. Harford paints a picture of economic reality by building a framework out of a series of narratives and sometimes throws in an actual bit of theoretical explanation. Rather than concentrating on the best anecdotes that make for the easiest reads, he is clearly on a mission to make the reader truly understand the main principles of economic reality. From large concepts of why some countries have a hard time developing (spoiler alert: it's mostly due to lack of reliable and effective institutions) to why coffee at the station is expensive (spoiler alert: limited consumer choice makes it possible to sell at a premium).

A friend of mine used to say that certain left wingers would be perfectly reasonable people if only they took an introductory course in economics. This book might just be that. For example, to those who are stuck at the intuitive feel that economics is a zero sum game (if some get richer, others must get poorer), this book might include some invaluable additions to their thinking. And yes, they will have fun reading it, too.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A darn good read! 23 Feb. 2013
By Robert W Weeks Jr - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives insights into what has really happened and is still happening as the smart entrepreneurs reap the rewards of their cleverness and are able to compound upon this. Of course, they have the freedom to fail from their efforts also but the overall picture is gain simply because they are smart enough to see that there is a market for their products and services. If this were not the case, they would not exist.
Didn't Mention the Externalities, Focuses on Growth, Growth, Growth 3 Jan. 2015
By Judah - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Despite my criticisms, I think this book can teach the layman something about simple economic concepts, so I'm giving it an 'OK' three stars despite the biases.

This book goes out of its way to be readable and simplify complex economic concepts. It goes too far.. while it may define and explain what an externality means in the early book, it never mentions them when defending sweatshops as essential for growing economies. Corruption is 'an economic disincentive', but the connection between forms of government and successful countries isn't stated. The author is obsessively for free-trade and pro-globalization. He is worshipful of the Chinese economy for performing well in the past few decades. Harford loses sight of those 'tragic externalities' a fast growing economy generates for the rest of the world.

This book never gets into the "Terror of Infinity", the concept that endless growth with finite resources is not possible. It does mention that a small corrupt ruling class can utterly destroy a nation's economic growth (The Tokugawa Shogunate is given as an example), but never says a thing about contemporary examples. I found this obvious self-editing, this refusal to connect the dots, to give ANY political or moral conclusion, detracted from the message the book was trying to sell.
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